3 Tips for Effective Online Studying (Backed by Psychology)

While many favour online learning due to its convenience and accessibility, it is also easier to get disengaged or distracted. With the days all rolling into one long “holiday” where you never have to leave the comforts of your own home, it may start to feel like productivity is at an all-time low. Combat the sluggish attitude and kickstart the new semester with these three tips on effective online studying.  

Use Positive Reinforcement 

If you’re the student who always falls asleep mid lecture – guilty as charged – or just can’t seem to finish your work in one sitting, this is definitely the tip for you.

Developed by Psychologist B. F. Skinner, the positive reinforcement theory suggests that if you have a positive outcome in mind, you will be more likely to finish your task at hand. This could mean treating yourself to a few episodes of Netflix after you’re done with work. Even simply thinking about the good grade you would get from sticking it through, could help you get that task done. 


It also helps to engage in active listening during lectures by questioning how the material being taught is relevant to the overall bigger concept. Centering your notes around this idea also allows you to better apply the concepts. 

Lastly, put your phone away and close irrelevant tabs during class. Lessen the distractions and your future self will thank you.

Set a Schedule (Using Context-dependent Memory)

Motivate yourself to stay on task by planning a rough guideline of what you want to achieve throughout the day. This eliminates decision fatigue and allows you to jump right into the motion of things instead of getting distracted. If it works better for you, you can even do this the night before so you will be able to wake up with an objective already in mind.


On how you should decide what to do at each specific time, you should take advantage of the Context-dependent Memory Theory. In Psychology, this refers to the improved recall of information when the context present at encoding (when you learn something) and retrieval (where you wish to recall the info) are the same. 

For example, if you have a Math test coming up the next week at 7am in the morning, you should try to study during that time frame each day leading up to the paper to allow you to better retrieve the information.

In fact, if you have been pulling all-nighters and studying in a sleep-deprived state, it is actually beneficial to take the test in that same sleep-deprived state as well. But of course, it may be wiser to just stick to something fool proof like wearing the same perfume instead.

Take Breaks, Get Active

Let’s get moving! Sitting down the whole day and staring at a screen can be exhausting, so make sure to take some time off and get away from your dedicated workspace. 

If you’re one who struggles to part from your beloved bed, try setting up cues to prompt yourself to do certain tasks. You can set your workout clothes on the bed or keep your running shoes next to your phone to get things going – the first step is always the hardest one.


Another thing to note, exercise (sadly) does not include the long walks to your fridge. If you tend to crave many salty and savoury food while studying, you may just be dehydrated so keep a bottle of water next to you throughout the day.

Share this article with your friends who may benefit from these tips or just start following them yourself! If you have any other great study tips that have worked for you, feel free to share them with us down in the comments below. All the best for the semester ahead!

Chloe Low

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